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Autumn’s Glory, Winter’s Grace

Nature is always with us, and indeed it is within us. It is part of the human collective subconscious. Our affinity with nature is inescapable. The vision of a beautiful day makes us feel uplifted. A day in the country refreshes and restores us. When we can no longer deal with the modern world, with all its stress and pollution, we turn to nature. A blue sky gives pleasure, green grass is calming, fresh air is rejuvenating. Nature is indeed our mother, and we turn to her when we need respite.

In California Impressionism, the principal subject was land, represented as clean and unspoiled with strength and grandeur. The sun shone its light on the land and gave it color; greens of spring, browns of late summer and fall, and everywhere, the deep blue mantle of the sky.

In Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles painter Misha Askenazy paints the heavy run-off from a rain storm in the Hollywood Hills. His bold use of oblique lines and gray colors clearly portray the feeling of a cold, wet stormy day.

Benjamin Brown was one of the earliest professional artists to settle in California (1886). He had patrons in both California and the East. Hoping to encourage more sales, one New York dealer suggested that Brown open a studio there and conceal the fact that he was from California. Brown flatly refused and defiantly began painting the word “California” beneath his signature, affirming his pride in being a Californian.

After completing many years of study in NY, Paul Grimm moved to Hollywood in 1919, and began his art career painting backdrops for the movie studios. In 1932, he settled in Palm Springs and maintained a small studio gallery there. President Dwight Eisenhower, who was a part-time resident of Palm Springs, often visited his studio. Eisenhower once wrote, “I profited from the experience of seeing how a real artist creates the effects he wants.” Grimm spent much of his time painting in the High Sierra, but is best known for his scenes of the changing moods of the Southern California desert.

Paul Lauritz moved to Los Angeles in 1919, and established a studio-home. At first he did plein air painting but discovered that he got a stronger light on the canvas by completing the work in his studio. He used gigantic brushes, pre-war French bristles, and even used them to achieve minute strokes. He also used palette knives and his hand to achieve a textural effect and generally simple, basic colors. In his painting, Poinsettia, you see the flower’s spiky petals casting purplish shadows in rhythmic patterns against a wall at the San Juan Capistrano Mission.

While living in Chicago, one of Marion Wachtel’s landscapes caught the eye of a Santa Fe Railroad Vice-President, and he offered her free passage to California in exchange for paintings for their ticket offices. When she arrived in San Francisco in 1903, she studied with William Keith and then to Los Angeles where she studied with artist Elmer Wachtel, whom she married in 1904. For 25 years, they painted together in California, Arizona, The High Sierra, the sea coast and Mexico. Her landscapes are remarkable for their breadth and simplicity and the fine uncomplicated sense of composition they reveal. Marion became renowned for her work in watercolor.

Suggested Books

To see The Irvine Museum Collection’s entire collection of high-quality books, cards and prints, please visit the bookstore.